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Being A Migrant Is My Compulsion; I Can’t Return Home

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I have always felt that life would have been a lot happier with family and relatives around rather than changing cities customarily, which comes at the expense of missing many important milestones and experiences of life. It’s not just the story of an individual, but the predicaments of millions of Biharis residing in the other states who often think of leaving everything and going back home but couldn’t muster the courage.

Image used for representational purposes only.

In 2005, when the world was thinking of exploring space tourism and moving towards artificial intelligence, my village got electricity. I have been away from my house since I was 5 years old and now, when I am almost 28, I am still away from my home, far away from the vicinity of my state in a pigeon-sized flat while my considerably larger house back in the village remains isolated and yearns for more people.

Being a migrant is not something which comes as a fortune, it’s the compulsion of millions of people like me who just can’t return to our village as we have a family to feed and almost a bleak opportunity back in state to earn a livelihood—apart from appearing for some random government services. For the same reason, I feel thousands of Biharis qualifying for the civil services examination is not something which we should be very proud of as it comes on the cost of low opportunities in the other field often resulting in depression and migration.

But the bigger question is, who’s responsible for such plight? I will try to answer this through my experiences and knowledge-sharing.

Photo- Deccan Herald

The People Of Bihar: How Caste Affects Politics In Bihar

The biggest fallacy is we, the people of Bihar, have the most contribution in the downfall of the state which was once the centre of learning in South-Asia and was the birthplace of three major religions: Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The majority of people in Bihar have always been casteist and extremely politically opinionated resulting in sending representatives to the lower house with only one motive—to elect someone who will be the flag-bearer of their caste.

These flag-bearers often created an army of sycophants whose rationale remained to enrich the party’s treasure to fund the upcoming or other elections (Panchayats, Zila Parsishads) where someone from their caste or family was getting nominated. This vicious cycle continued resulting in widespread kidnapping, demand for ransoms, and murders which affected major industries and crumbled manufacturing sectors.

The change of power in the name of Nitish Kumar came with a lot of hope and the due credit must be given to JDU for improving the law and order, and transport networks in the state, but the issue of migration and establishment of modern industries was something which was never demanded and never appeared in any political party’s manifestos. Sadly, the equation to power remains the same even now—caste.

Faulty And Unjust Government Policies

Problems Of The Migrant Labourers Of Bihar
Image used for representation purposes only.

Bihar did far better during the British era, at least as far as industrialization was concerned, with major manufacturing units in Sitamarhi, Samastipur (sugarcane productions), Jamalpur (railway engine manufacturing), Bhagalpur (silk industry), Patna, Baruini (fertilizers and cement plants). But after independence, when the focus shifted to creating SEZ zones, Bihar took a backseat with its rich minerals getting exploited due to unfair tax-regulations and easy mining which made it effortless to mine and export the unfinished goods to the states which had coastal lines.

Many companies and states sharing the coast benefited, leaving Bihar poor and downcast.

Living across different cities, I have come across many instances where I have been subjected to stereotyping arising from the widespread negativity about the Biharis usurping jobs and agreeing to work at a minimal rate. The same doesn’t qualify for the argument as far as economics is concerned, and it’s often the lethargy which makes them come with such excuses influenced by the rhetorical speeches of the politicians.

The austerity which thousands of daily wage earners migrants displayed in taking a long journey on foot and bicycles just to reach their village, their home, is worth pondering. Sooner or later, they will return. They have to return to cater to their hunger. But, those who find solace back in their homes have my envy of not being so intrepid.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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